Why I Became a UU
Why You Should Support This Church
…by Harold C. Ford
(Note: this year’s pledge drive officially kicked off on January 21st. Please support UUCF with a generous pledge.)
My grandpa Ford was a hardscrabble laborer, an avowed atheist of English ancestry. Grandma was French-Canadian and a devout Roman Catholic. Ooowee! Talk about a mismatch. they fought about religion day and night. My father was so traumatized by their fighting he vowed never to make religion an issue in his own family; he kept his vow.
Mother, therefore, felt it her responsibility to provide some religious training for her five children. She took us to the local theologically conservative, Calvary Presbyterian Church. The hymn I most remember is “Onward Christian Soldiers”—a war song if there ever was one.
I remember attending Holy Rosary Catholic Church with my neighbors. I didn’t understand the Latin liturgy and didn’t know when to kneel, sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand—but those Catholics sure seemed devout. I also visited my girlfriend’s Luther Church, the Missouri Synod, the most conservative branch of that faith. Once again, those Lutherans sure seemed devout.
I wasn’t too impressed by any of these early experiences however. It seemed to me that:
1) They were always trying to make you feel guilty about something—like a lot of the things that made me feel good;
2) And that everybody was born in a sinful state—even little kids—and to get to heaven we had to jump through the spiritual hoops prescribed by religious ringmasters. If you didn’t, you’d burn in hell for a long, long time.
These early religious experiences didn’t make much sense to me. Why would a god send you to hell? I wouldn’t even do that!
So I spent my late-teens, twenties, and thirties unchurched.
An activist, counter-culture child of the 60s, I came to mistrust most traditional institutions—government, the military, corporate America, marriage, and traditional religion for sure.
It was 1970 when I first set foot in UUCF and it had nothing to do with religion. Like Martin King and hundreds of thousands of Americans, I was surveilled by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. I was told the local ACLU would help me. It met at UUCF. I also came to this church in the 70s as a counselor for war tax resisters and seeking UU participation in a pro-choice coalition, but I still wasn’t seeking a religion.
With the birth of my son in 1981, I started thinking about religion. My idea was to expose Justin to a variety of religions, including atheism and secular humanism, and let him choose.
At about the same time, two friends—Hal Lawson and Linda Pinti—both UUs, urged me to visit UUCF. “Try it, you might like it,” they said. I resisted but I eventually tried it and I liked it, a lot.
I arrived here at about the same time Charlotte Cowtan-Holm arrived as a minister. (She’s now our Minister Emerita.) Her early series of three sermons on the Bible were unforgettable:
• one helped me to understand its beauty;
• one exposed its dark passages and contradictions;
• the third advised thoughtful persons like me how they might include the Bible in their spiritual journey.
What a spiritual breath of fresh air! I had found my spiritual home. This church fulfilled the polite command on the bumper sticker inspired by our own Victor Galea: “Make religion make sense.”
The double bonus was that the Religious Education program in this church would do for my son what I wanted: expose him to a variety of faith traditions.
I suspect I’ll never know for sure the answers to the really big spiritual
• Where did we come from?
• Where are we going
But I find comfort in this place that doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, that allows an open, responsible, and intelligent search for the spiritual meaning of our lives.
This is my church, this is my spiritual home, and it will be until my ashes are mixed with those of my
UU ancestors in our beautiful Memorial Garden out back.